Behind the Lense

By Anna Dowd

For close to a decade photographer and creative artist Jay Black has been the capturing moments of joy, colour and connection at events and festivals across the Mid North Coast.

This month she shares with Bellbottom some of her favourite images and how her work is a constant reminder of the ways in which arts and culture are the heart of community.

“It’s where we can all truly connect, regardless of where we’re from, what our politics are,” says Black who works regularly with clients such as Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance, Screenwave International Film Festival and Bello Winter Fest.

“At every event, I see people having just such essentially good and rich experiences that really do change individuals and communities for the better.” Black says a common side effect of her job is finding a constant smile on her face, and it’s nothing unusual for her well up during a shoot.

“I come away feeling so nourished from witnessing all these moments between people. And then when I’m editing at home I get to relive it all again.”

“That’s the thing with photos I guess, the joy just keeps giving, you get to look at them over and over and keep extending the connection.”

Over nine years of being a fly on the wall at festivals, live music shows, gallery openings and workshops, she has observed a growing awareness in the region of how creative and diverse our communities really are.

“There’s just so much out there and it’s beautiful to see so many organisations and councils are taking up that question of ‘how can we create connection’ through arts and culture.”

1. Centre for Ecological Learning | Youth Against Plastic Camp
This was from work I did with Tyler Parkes and Andrew Turbill from CEL. It’s an exercise where the person has to track down sounds blindfolded, so using their other senses, in the forest. I love the pop of red, the symmetry of the trees, the richness of the colour and his motion. And there’s something just quirky and amusing about it. It was beautiful to see the young people connecting and working together.

2. Coffs Council Harmony Festival
After a full day of singing, dancing, food and contagious joy, the festival finished with this parade with drumming, led by a couple of young men. There’s something about a parade to finish a festival and I think this photo captures the joy and creative frenzy and ‘we’re part of something bigger than ourselves’ feeling.

3. Pitt Family Circus
This was taken at the Federal hotel Cider Fest. Gareth had just come down from the roof in his y – fronts and was doing his trademark toilet humour. I just love the connection this captures between him and his daughter, and the fact that she’s seen him do this act and been part of it so many times but she’s still so amused. It’s priceless.

4. Marlon Williams | St Margarets Anglican Church
I love photographing performers. The challenge of capturing the energy and the vibe in a still image. This was before he became well known and the whole audience there was just gobsmacked by his talent, just melting, rapt, knowing you’re all witnessing something really extraordinary. I also really like the emotion that black and white can bring out.

5. Alison Williams | Pottery masterclass
I often think about Alison’s hands. This was from a workshop held over two days, working with clay, sitting, talking and sharing between young and older women. The learning and the joy and attitude of ‘lets just have a play’ was just so nourishing. They’re my favourite jobs, when I have time to really look and sit back and capture those details.

6. Saltwater Freshwater (pictured)
Touring Exhibition | Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre
This captures the corroboree where dancers from all the clans that’d been part of the exhibition came together. Such powerful connection to culture and country. I want everyone to be able to experience and see the power and pride that is happening at events and in moments like this. I feel so honoured to be at these events.

7. Michelle Der Kinderen | ScreenWave International Film Festival Opening (SWIFF)
Michelle was quite nervous as she hadn’t performed for a while but to see her get up there with such power and grace and fun and beauty singing live opera, people were crying, it was incredible. And having these photos was just another step in validating her talent.

It’s wonderful working for SWIFF as I get to sit in cinema’s and take photos of people watching movies. It’s about waiting for enough white light to come in from the screen, being discreet enough to not bother people, and capturing the joy that’s reflected on their faces. It’s just another variety of connection.